Some tiny creature, mad with wrath,

Is coming nearer on the path.

--Edward Gorey

Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S. Outlying Islands

Writer, lawyer, cyclist, rock climber, wanderer of dark residential streets, friend.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Stable Justices and a Shifting Spectrum

A little while back I strenuously objected to the proposition, ever so familiar to consumers of the MSM and the quasi-MS law commentariat, that seven of the past nine conservative appointments to the Supreme Court have moved left upon acceding to the Court. But I'm anonymous, and average, and a non-scholar and all of that, so what do I know, right?

So don't take it from me -- take it from Law Prof David Strauss, who makes virtually the same points I have made but with far more historical detail and credibility. He writes:

In today's climate, the assertion that justices have moved in a liberal direction has the effect of shifting the terms of the debate: If any justice who disagrees with Scalia and Thomas becomes, by definition, a liberal, then Scalia and Thomas begin to look more moderate. But it is the court that has changed, because of new appointees. No justice on this court has changed his or her basic beliefs in any major way.

Do justices ever change their core beliefs while on the court? Of course; it is possible to find some examples in the 216-year history of the court. But they are very much the exception. In putting justices on the U.S. Supreme Court--as in marriage--it is a bad idea to go into the relationship hoping that someone will change.

Read the whole thing. Now. Read it.

(Hat tip, Armand, private correspondence.)


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